Review by Tulis McCall
13 Dec 2009
Do any of you remember Flanders and Swan? Between 1956 and 1967 they toured the world with their two-man revues: At the Drop of a Hat and At the Drop of Another Hat. (Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vh-wEXvdW8)I was 10 years old and on a winter break visit to my Grandmother in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She took me to see these two men, and I was completely taken by them. Their humor was dry and deep and I remember the thrill I felt because I understood it.
Fascinating Aïda is following very well in these extraordinary footsteps. This is an old fashioned revue in true British form. This means these women are silly and serious in one, and take on subjects that we Americans will only find in comedy clubs. The writers for the theatre are far too timid.
What you need to know before you go, and I do hope you make the trek, is that most of the evening is over the top. These three ladies like the view from up there, and encourage us mightily to make the climb. They will not come down to where we are. That simply is not done.
Dillie Keane, “like American Express, she is not accepted in all establishments” the only remaining founding member of the group, which started in 1983, begins the evening singing “It isn’t too late to be famous.” She is quickly joined by “the long-serving, long-suffering diva of the deep” Adèle Anderson (1984) and Liza Pullman who “joined us five years ago when we successfully bid for her on Ebay.”
And we’re off….
There follows song after song: Whites’ Blues – a song about the struggle we white people suffer as we strive to be socially sensitive; Charity – “Charity begins in public, and it’s not what you give, it’s who sees you;” Getting It – one woman’s journey with Viagra; a hilarious series of musical haikus that dot the evening and cover gay marriage (“sadly not here in New York”); Bloomberg’s purchase of the last election (Was I the only one cheering at that? Seemed so.); Radiating Love – about the effects of fallout - “Will you still hold my hand if the skin isn’t there?”
Fascinating Aïda gives us an homage to Gilbert and Sullivan that explains the Money Market in a way where you begin to think it is understandable. Until you realize that you have been duped, because nothing about the world economy makes sense, even to the people trafficking in it. They attack plastic surgery “Mobility is the enemy of beauty,” global warming and just for the heck of it they cover the subject of singing while German. I nearly ended up on the floor.
I could go on and on – but these women already do. Because these women are Brits they believe in a lot of verses. Reminds me of going to my father’s church when I was a kid and singing the hymns. All the verses every time. Methodists. Go figure. I might venture to tell them that we don’t need all the verses, but I suspect they would smile graciously and say, “That’s the way we do it, thank you. Ever so much,” in a manner designed to make me flinch without being certain why. As if to underline this choice, their final departure from the stage is, shall we say, delayed. Much to everyone’s delight.
Fascinating Aïda is a show that hands you a plate of life and makes you wince, and makes you laugh, and makes you think while you tap your feet to the tune. A slice of British humor and commentary served up fresh for your holiday enjoyment.
Treat yourself to this trio.